After learning the news, Karlene Matthes fought her cancer head on. She knew attitude was everything!

A Personal Trainer Fights for Her Own Health

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Karlene Matthes leads an active life. A personal trainer and massage therapist, she teaches boxing, cardio kickboxing and is committed to a life focused on health and wellness. If there’s a challenge, she’s up for it, and she wants to help others rise and overcome their challenges, too. She’s built a successful career out of it.

Life was going well for Karlene, so when she went for her regular gynecology checkup, she was shocked by what her doctor told her. Karlene was diagnosed with Stage III Triple-Negative Breast Cancer, a type of cancer which tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer, especially in the later stages.

Her doctor referred her for a consultation with Dr. Negar Golesorkhi, a Sentara Medical Group surgeon with advanced training in breast surgical oncology. Dr. Golesorkhi helped Karlene understand her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment options.  She recommended a combination of therapies including chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy.

“Everything started echoing,” said Karlene. “But I felt like Dr. Golesorkhi would have cancelled the rest of her appointments if that’s what I needed to understand the challenge in front of me. She loves each of her patients.”

“I needed a week to just scream and be mad [at the cancer],” said Karlene. “I never felt like a victim. With Sentara, I felt like a member of my own healthcare team. They validated me and respected my wishes and knowledge.”

When Karlene went in for her next appointment, she was ready to begin chemotherapy.

In addition to the highly qualified, compassionate team at Sentara, Karlene had another secret weapon—her daughter, Rachel.  An EMT/paramedic in Fairfax County, Rachel became her caretaker, champion, and trusted partner in the fight. And although chemotherapy can be exhausting, Karlene refused to be sidelined by it. Throughout her treatment, she maintained her active lifestyle; riding her red Harley Davidson, running, and continuing to work with her clients. Halfway through her treatment, she even indulged in a vacation to Aruba.

Karlene didn’t slow down, but she had her share of challenges. She developed neuropathy, a common side effect of chemotherapy that is typically characterized by tingling, pain, and numbness in the hands and feet. Karlene also had touches of something commonly referred to as “chemo brain,” a mental fog causing temporary thinking and memory problems following cancer treatment.

Following eight rounds of chemotherapy, Karlene was scheduled for surgery. True to her passion for fitness and physical activity, the day before her surgery Karlene went on an 8-hour hike at Old Rag Mountain, a popular hiking destination in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to prepare herself mentally and emotionally. 
Her surgery the next day at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center went exactly as planned. However, anticipating the final leg of her journey caused her to panic.  Again, Dr. Golesorkhi’s reassurance and patience gave Karlene time to prepare for radiation therapy.  Karlene completed treatment and is happy to report that she has been in remission ever since.

“Cancer itself isn’t a blessing, but it comes with a lot of blessings,” said Karlene. “It was so reassuring to know I had Dr. Golesorkhi and the entire Sentara Healthcare team. Their compassion is overwhelming. It was so reassuring.”